How to Track Ovulation When Trying to Conceive

When you are trying to conceive, it helps to know how to track ovulation. Monitoring when you ovulate lets you make sure that you're targeting the most fertile window in your cycle. (Some couples also use ovulation tracking to try to avoid pregnancy).

Ovulation tracking is a method of natural family planning or a fertility awareness method. There are several ways you can do it, including the calendar method, tracking cervical mucus, and using an ovulation predictor kit. If you know when you ovulate, it's ideal to have sex during the five days before through the day after your expected ovulation. Experts usually recommend couples have sex every day or every other day during this most fertile time. 

It's also key to be aware of other symptoms of ovulation, which can include breast tenderness, bloating, and light spotting and cramping. Whether you are just starting to attempt to conceive, you have been trying for a while without success, or you have recently suffered a miscarriage, you may turn to tracking ovulation to help improve your odds of conception. Learn more about how to track ovulation.

The Calendar Method

Photo of three red x marks on days of a calendar
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If your menstrual cycle tends to be the same number of days from month to month, it's a good bet that you ovulate around two weeks, or 14 days, before your period begins. Of course, this can vary based on your individual cycle. If you have a 35-day cycle, for example, you will most likely be ovulating around the 21st day.

Using a calendar to track ovulation is less helpful if you have irregular periods that vary from one month to the next. On the other hand, if you have very regular cycles (meaning no shorter than 26 days and no longer than 32 days), you can utilize the Standard Days Method, in which you focus on having sex during days 8 to 19 of your cycle.

Charting Your Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature charting (BBT charting) involves taking your temperature first thing in the morning, before you even rise from bed. A sustained temperature increase indicates that you have ovulated. By maintaining a chart over the duration of your cycle, you can detect these temperature changes.

In some cases, BBT charting may even offer a hint as to whether you have conceived or not. This is the so-called "implantation dip."

Ovulation Predictor Kits

Ovulation predictor kits are urine tests, similar to home pregnancy tests, that show when your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels surge. An LH surge usually indicates that you will ovulate within 12 to 36 hours. Once the test predicts ovulation, it is recommended that you have sex daily for the next several days.

In most cases, you need to take the tests over consecutive days to accurately detect the surge. If you test over five days, you have an 80% chance of predicting ovulation; over 10 days, that figure rises to around 95%.

Digital fertility monitors work similarly to ovulation predictor kits but offer more precision and earlier detection. The drawback is that the monitor and test sticks tend to be very pricey. But these devices are accurate enough that some couples use them to avoid pregnancy.

Saliva Ferning Tests

Saliva testing can also be used to detect ovulation. Compared to ovulation predictor kits, this form of testing is often far less costly.

The test works by highlighting crystal formations that typically develop in saliva during ovulation. During the most fertile period in the menstrual cycle, there will be chemical changes in the saliva. When dried, the residue exhibits fern-like crystals that are not present at other stages in the cycle.

The test kit includes a lens onto which a drop of saliva is placed. After around five minutes, view the sample under the viewing scope to see if the characteristic crystals have developed. Ovulation is likely to occur within 24 to 72 hours of the first formations.

Tracking Cervical Mucus Changes

Charting cervical mucus isn't for everyone, but it can certainly give you a good idea as to when you will be ovulating. When used with basal body temperature charting, this method of monitoring offers a relatively high level of accuracy.

Around the time of ovulation (the ideal time to have sex in order to conceive), the cervical mucus begins to thin and clear. It has an appearance similar to that of raw egg whites. This thinning allows sperm to pass through the cervix during intercourse and provides them a more alkaline environment in which to survive.

Having Sex Regularly

Tracking ovulation isn't necessary if you have sex two to three times per week (or roughly every two to three days). While ovulation monitoring can certainly be helpful for couples with scheduling challenges or fertility problems, for others, having sex on a regular basis may offer more or less the same chance of conceiving.

To improve your odds even further, you can practice conception sex, using timing, sexual positions, and lubricants to create the ideal environment for conceiving a baby.

A Word From Verywell

Getting pregnant using one of these methods can come with relative ease, assuming you don't have any underlying reproductive issues. However, if you're using these methods to prevent pregnancy, talk to your doctor, especially if you tend to have irregular cycles. Your doctor can answer any questions you have and help ensure you're using these methods correctly.

1 Source
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  1. Su HW, Yi YC, Wei TY, Chang TC, Cheng CM. Detection of ovulation, a review of currently available methods. Bioeng Transl Med. 2017;2(3):238-246. doi:10.1002/btm2.10058

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.